How to unplug and connect with your family at the dinner table

Foster food, fun and conversation at the family table. Here’s how to manage technology during dinner time so you can connect with your loved ones.

Smartphones and iPads can be terrific tools for fostering food, fun and conversation at the family table. But devices can also get in the way of true family connections at meal time. Here are some possible phone rules for your family, as suggested by the Family Dinner Project.

Tech-free zone

Some families choose “zero tolerance” for mealtimes. There are certainly times when this is a good idea for everyone. Zero tolerance means you turn off all computers, TVs and cellphones. Here’s the bad news – it’s usually parents who are most likely to break the rules. So zero tolerance needs to apply to everyone at the table, not just the kids.

Just one glance

We’ve all been in those situations where we are just dying to check our phones for a text or a game score. If you want a less restrictive mealtime, consider the one-glance policy. Everyone at the table gets once glance at their phone per meal. Use it wisely.

First to look

Find a cute basket and put it at the centre of the table. All the phones (Mum’s and Dad’s too) go into the basket. At the beginning of the meal, everyone decides the penalty for being the first to look. Maybe first lookers have to clear the table, do the dishes or complete some other household task that helps the family. If you’ve got a teen addicted to a phone, you’ll get lots of extra housework help this way.

Conversation starters

Sometimes technology can spark a conversation and family connection. Do your kids have a favourite song or video that’s on their minds? Watch a short clip or ask your child to read from a funny blog post. Now put the phones in the centre of the table and enjoy the conversation that ensues after you’ve allowed yourself to peek inside your child’s digital world.

Tara Parker-Pope is the founding editor of Well, an award- winning consumer health site with news and features to help readers live well every day. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.


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